As online gaming, and gaming in general, continues to evolve, there can be some risk posed, especially for younger children. Many parents worry about keeping their child safe while they play video games, and there are valid reason to be concerned.
Whether it’s interacting with others online, or concerns about in-game content, there are some factors that parents should consider before letting their child play free. But don’t let fear make you say no to video games. With guidelines and open communication, your child can have a safe video game experience.
Following are some tips you can use to keep your child’s gaming experience safe. Remember that none of these are a replacement for seeing the content for yourself.
8 Tips for Safe Video Game Fun
Research, Research, Research
For some games, it can be obvious which ones are appropriate for young children and which ones are not. Games like Grand Theft Auto and Hitman are fairly obviously mature games. When games make the content, parents can easily decide if it’s appropriate for their child. It’s simply a matter of deciding if you want to allow video games with adult content. And if so, what adult content and what age do you want to allow it.
For example, a parent may be ok with hunting games but not with military combat games. Additionally, you may be ok with violence, but not sexual content in your child’s game. All of these depend on the age and maturity of the child, along with what the parent feels is best.
To find out what type of content is in a video game, look at the back of the case. It will say what all types of content it is rated for. You can also look up parent’s guides that will explain what mature content is present in a game.
Additionally, it may give more detailed examples of mature content, such as the game containing gun violence versus melee violence or whatever the case may be. Be sure to make use of your resources as a parent before your child gets ahold of the game.
Looking for family friendly video games? Check out my list of educational video games kids love!
Monitor Online Play
For American gamers, the phrase “Online actions not rated by the ESRB” may sound familiar. What this essentially means is that online games cannot be monitored by the game developer, as they happen in real time.
While there are often chat restrictions and certain mechanisms in place to prevent spam or excessively harsh language, online play opens up a few risks. For example, there is always the chance for strong language or other verbal obscenities by other players. If you or your child is uncomfortable with this, it is probably best to stay away from online multiplayer games for a while.
You can report players for strong language through most game services, but it does not change the fact that you heard what they said. Alternatively, some games offer “mute all” functions that allow players to block the audio from other players. Others will still be able to hear them if they desire so it does not disrupt the game.
It is important to know what your children are getting into online as to ensure maximum safety for your family.
Educate Your Child on Online Safety
While most of us know the basics of online safety, we can take it for granted that our children do not. Sit down with your child and explain the basics of online safety before they start gaming online. Following are a few of the most important rules for online conduct.
Do Not Share Personal Information
The most important rule is make sure your child knows not to give any information to anyone online. If they are ever asked, tell them to get a parent or block the person asking. However, it should be noted that gamers do try to get to know each other, especially when playing several times together.
It is not uncommon to be asked about your name, age, or state. The risk comes in when these questions become more frequent and personal. Make sure your child can exercise good judgement when communicating online.
Do Not Open External Links
When receiving messages from strangers, be sure not to click on links or downloads. While this isn’t nearly as big a problem in the gaming community, it still can be. Make sure your child knows not to leave the game to follow a link or download.
Additionally, don’t open up messages from people you do not trust, and if they repeatedly try to contact you, block them and move on fast.
Be Wary of In-Game Purchases
This tip goes for both parents and kids. Make sure your children know not to spend money on in-game purchases and that they cost real money that isn’t theirs. Additionally, you can just set the console’s settings to not allow monetary purchases.
Ensure that your children know the concept of money before allowing them to run free on games, as many games make it incredibly easy to spend money if the settings allow.
Don’t Trust Mods
While modding is a great way to enhance your gaming experience, certain people will use mods to gain information from others. Specifically, if your child sees ways to get unlimited money, or free outfits in a game, there may be cause to be wary of such mods.
Additionally, there is no modding for consoles, and any changes to the game come from the game itself, and do not require hooking up computers to the console.
These tips form the basics for online safety, and should be discussed and reaffirmed with your child regularly. If these rules are broken, you may consider limiting online use for your child’s safety.
Staying Healthy- Mentally and Physically
Gaming can be a great way to have fun and socialize, but as with all activities, it should be regulated. Gaming for excessive sessions can be detrimental, so it is important to set guidelines for online activity early on.
Additionally, if your child begins acting differently, or is too attached to online gaming, it may be best to take a break. In fact, children should take breaks from gaming after about an hour of playtime.
Online gaming can be an incredibly fun activity under the right circumstances. With the proper safety and supervision, your family can have a blast playing and connecting with others. No matter what type of game your kids are playing, chances are there’s online services.
With these tips in place, you can rest easy as a parent knowing that your kids are safe and having fun online.